Author Archives: U.S. News

How to Manage a Mortgage After a Divorce

Filed under: , ,

couple fight over a house...
ShutterstockIn divorce, the matter of who gets the house can become moot without proper financial planning and professional advice.

By

In a divorce, it’s bad enough that you’re losing someone you once loved or may still love. It’s even worse when you find out you may lose your house, too. And finding a replacement, much like starting a love life all over, won’t be easy. After all, lenders tend to give mortgage loans to people with good credit and a solid stream of income. If you were previously a two-income household, you aren’t now, and if you’re paying alimony, you have less money than you did.

Whether you’re in the midst of a divorce or its aftermath, here are some things you can do to land a mortgage and what you can reasonably expect.

You may want to get your name or your ex’s name off the mortgage. But perhaps not; it depends. If you are planning to buy a house, and your ex is living in the home you co-own, then ideally, your ex

It can be difficult for a person paying alimony to buy a house because of the way lenders look at that alimony.

needs to refinance in his or her name. That will decrease your debt and increase your odds of being able to get a new mortgage.

What if your ex can’t refinance on her or his own? If you’d like to see your ex and the kids remain in the house, you may want to leave your name on the mortgage and co-own the house for a while with your ex.

“People do that all the time,” says Katie Connell, a family law attorney with Boyd Collar Nolen & Tuggle in Atlanta and a governor-appointed member of the Georgia Commission on Child Support. “I’m stereotyping, but often a woman who didn’t work full time and doesn’t have the income stream or the credit to buy her own house, she and her ex-husband have agreed, with their family transitioning and changing, that it’s in their better interest to keep mom and the kids in the house for, say, four or five years or when the kids go into their college freshman year,” she says. “The husband is often willing to essentially extend his credit to his ex-wife by letting his name stay on the mortgage.”

If you’re going that route, Connell says you’ll want to work out details about how profits will be split once the house is sold down the road. It may not be an equal split since one ex-spouse will be likely making the mortgage payments and possibly spending money to maintain the home for those extra years.

Connell says that arrangement tends to work better if the ex without the house still has enough income and good credit to buy a new home of his or her own.

Don’t buy a home during the divorce proceedings. Even if you’re rich beyond belief, and your credit and income stream are solid, it’s still a risky move. Connell says one of her clients lost $10,000 in earnest money when he tried to buy a house during his divorce proceedings.

“He had great credit, a very good income, but when the lender found out he was going through a divorce, they said, ‘Your alimony and child support payments are question marks,'” Connell says. “By the

Some lenders won’t even consider letting a divorced person who receives alimony use that alimony as evidence of income….

way, this client had a different lawyer back then. If I had been representing him, I would have said, ‘Don’t do it!'”

Connell adds that when the client’s ex learned he lost $10,000 in earnest money, the ex’s lawyer naturally felt that the ex was entitled to at least half of that money – it was, after all, money that otherwise would have been in the pot of assets to split.

It can be difficult for a person paying alimony to buy a house because of the way lenders look at that alimony. “Alimony is considered a debt,” says Susan Pryor, branch manager of Silverton Mortgage Specialists, a direct lender in Atlanta. “If you make $10,000 a month and give $3,000 to your ex-spouse, the lender doesn’t look at it like you’re making $7,000 a month. They look at it like you have a $3,000 car payment every month.”

Where should you live during the divorce proceedings? Assuming you aren’t selling the house immediately and you’re both looking for a place to rent, there are two common approaches couples take, according to Connell.

  • Stay in your house with your soon-to-be ex. “We definitely see more people grinning and bearing it and living together longer,” Connell says. “We saw a lot of that in this last recession.” It’s an idea that makes some sense. Living together awhile longer will save you both money. And especially if you have children, maintaining a civil relationship under the same roof may help with your post-divorce relationship.
  • You could nest. You hear “nesting” used a lot in pregnancy, but Connell says that in the divorce industry, the term refers to renting an apartment near the house and living there while a divorce is worked out. “We see a lot of couples who take turns living there, and the kids stay in the house,” Connell says.

Connell adds the latter arrangement may not work for couples who still harbor a lot of anger or suspicion. She recalls an instance where a wife was convinced the husband was unplugging lamps and cable cords throughout the house before he would leave for the week.

“No damage or harm was done, but [the wife felt] it was just to be a pest,” Connell says. Meanwhile, the husband said the cords came unplugged from his vacuuming, and that the wife was leaving dirty dishes in the sink.

Whatever you do, Pryor urges divorcing homeowners to not rush their decision of where to live next. “You may be under tremendous stress, and it’s an emotional situation. Divorce can shake your planning, and you may not be able to make the right decisions,” she says.

Besides, you may not be able to rush, even if you want to. Some lenders won’t even consider letting a divorced person who receives alimony use that alimony as evidence of income until there’s a six-month history of alimony payments being paid on time, Connell says.

You may be better off without a mortgage. This may be the last thing you want to hear if you want to hang onto your house or buy a new home. But the money math may not add up.

It’s a common mistake with divorced homeowners, says Jean Ann Dorrell, a certified estate planner in Sumter County, Florida. Many people, she says, are “trying to hold onto a house because it’s where the kids grew up or because you don’t want the kids to have to change schools, you don’t want to lose friends and you stay too long trying to afford something you never could have or should have.”
Pryor agrees. “We see it a lot,” she says. “It’s especially emotional when children are involved.” She adds that spouses who didn’t know a divorce was coming tend to be the ones who can’t face their new budget.

Pryor recommends professional help for anyone divorced and struggling to keep their home or figure out where to live next.

“I think it’s important to do some financial planning, and there are planners who focus on divorce, so you can see what money is coming in and what’s going out,” Pryor says. “Just because you can barely make that mortgage payment every month doesn’t mean you should stay in the house.”

 

Permalink | Email this | Comments

When Buying a House Always Keep These 4 Things in Mind

Filed under: , , ,

couple signing home purchase...
ShutterstockEven if you’re pre-approved for a loan, make sure you give yourself enough time for the extensive documentation.

By Geoff Williams

Buying a house is a little like asking someone to marry you. In both cases, you make your offer believing there’s a good chance you’ll get a yes, but you know you could get a no. If the answer is yes in either situation, your fates will be linked for many years to come — possibly until death do you part. But if you don’t get an immediate answer, the wait can be excruciating. We may not be able to help you with your love life, but if you want your house offer to be greeted with a yes — and a quick one — here are four rules to follow.

Be likable. Money talks, but so do you. And you don’t want to say anything that could turn off a seller.
“You’re most likely buying someone’s home that they have memories and a lot of emotional ties to,” says Marc Takacs, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty in Atlanta. So if the seller is present when you see the house, keep quiet about your grand plans for landscaping or repainting the living room.

[Read: The Hidden Costs of Buying a Home.]

“Don’t tell someone how bad, ugly, stupid, etcetera, that someone’s house is, and then try to buy it. That doesn’t work,” Takacs says.

Well, it might, if the homeowner is desperate and primed to sell, but if there are other buyers circling, you’ve given the seller an excuse to reject your offer and accept someone else’s.

Another no-no, according to Takacs, is being high-maintenance. “Don’t overstay your welcome,” he advises. “I don’t think anything irritates a seller more than when a buyer visits a house too much or stays for too long.”

He also suggests that when you submit your offer, avoid making unreasonable demands such as a lightning-fast closing date. “Try to be considerate of the fact people are trying to carry on with their lives, move and all the other stuff that goes along with that. Being pushed out of your house can be very unsettling,” Takacs says.

Don’t be stingy with your offer, but don’t overreach. If you offer exactly what the seller is asking, you will get his or her attention and probably their respect and appreciation. In many cases, your offer

“If you buy it for more than you can afford, you’ll end up hating the house and yourself in the long run.”

will be accepted. Offer a tad bit more, and you may chase other buyers away whose offers are at or below the list price.

At the other end of the spectrum, a lowball offer may insult the homeowner. In some instances, it may be shrewd to offer significantly less than the list price, but first consult your real estate agent, who will probably have the best read on what your seller is likely to accept.

If you’re looking to make the strongest offer possible, make sure it’s not so high that you can’t afford it, warns Kelly Long, a Chicago-based money coach and member of the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “Don’t offer more than you can practically afford, even if you’re approved for more,” she says, adding that this can easily happen if you’re looking at a house that’s out of your price range.

[Read: How to Compete in a Seller’s Housing Market.]

“If you buy it for more than you can afford, you’ll end up hating the house and yourself in the long run,” she says.

That’s because the more expensive your house is, the higher your monthly payments will likely be. Long cites the rule of thumb that a monthly payment shouldn’t exceed more than 28 percent of your gross income. That includes taxes and insurance, she adds.

Be ready for a yes. If the seller says no, the next steps are clear enough: You make a better offer, or continue house-hunting. But even if the seller accepts the offer, you don’t have those front door keys yet.

“You may be pre-approved based on your credit report and supplying your W-2, but the [mortgage] application process is much more involved and requires extensive documentation in a short window of time,” Long says. “Make sure you have some time set aside to gather all the necessary information in the week following the offer’s acceptance. You’ll also need to schedule, attend and pay for an inspection in that first week, so make sure you have the money on hand to pay for that.”

You may also be asked to offer earnest money, a deposit you give a homeowner to show you’re serious about your offer. Generally, earnest money is anywhere from 1 percent to 3 percent of the house’s total purchase price. You can get the money back if the sale doesn’t go through, but you can also lose it if you flake out and decide not to buy the house for no reason, or you don’t follow what you’ve agreed to in the purchase contract.

Don’t sabotage yourself to seal the deal. Speaking of that contract, be careful about what you put in it.
Yes, you want the house. You want the sellers to like you. But in an effort to get those keys from the sellers, don’t be their doormat.

According to Kent Sisk, an account executive at NexTitle, a title and escrow agency based in Bellevue, Washington, “the market is so hot right now [that] many buyers are waiving the inspection period, sometimes waiving the inspection altogether, in order to get their offer approved.”

Not smart, Sisk says.

[See: 10 Saving Strategies That Can Backfire.]

After all, you don’t want to learn after you buy the house that the roof leaks or there’s mold hidden away in the ventilation. Or you may end up berating yourself if you waive the appraisal contingency, which lets you back out of the deal if the lender concludes the appraised value is less the sale price, and later learn that you vastly overpaid for your home.

Ideally, your offer will be one that makes everyone, the seller and you, happy and reassured that everything between now and the closing will go smoothly. If you feel like you need to win this house at all costs and things go badly after your offer is accepted, not only will you lose — it will definitely cost you.

 

Permalink | Email this | Comments

Home Not Selling? 5 Steps to Take

Filed under: , ,

house for sale with
Shutterstock“Often sellers make the mistake of factoring in what price they need in order to sell the property.”

By Geoff Williams

The housing market is faring much better than it was a few years ago, but sales have slowed from 2013. If that “for sale” sign has been on your front lawn a lot longer than you expected, you may be wondering: What do most homeowners do in this situation? It’s best to consult your real estate agent, assuming you have one, but you may also want to consider the following suggestions to sell your home quickly.

Lower the price. This is the most obvious suggestion, but price is often the problem. “Often sellers make the mistake of factoring in what price they need in order to sell the property,” says Rob Anzalone, co-founder of Fenwick Keats Real Estate, a New York City residential brokerage and property management firm. “Need is desire and isn’t a factor in establishing market value.”

Another reason sellers price their home above the market value, Anzalone says, is because they’re afraid they’ll sell for too low of a price and then look like a sucker. But he adds: “It’s very difficult to underprice a property. If the price is too low, buyers will bid it up to market value with multiple offers.”

[Read: 7 Reasons Your House Isn’t Selling.]

As for how low to go, make it count, says Margaux Pelegrin, a Realtor at Philadelphia-based Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, Realtors. “A $1,000 price reduction won’t be effective on a $400,000 listing,” she says. “The price should be reduced a minimum of 2 percent.”
She adds that one large price reduction is always better than lowering the price in small increments.

Deep clean. Hopefully this is the first thing you did before putting the house on the market, but maybe you didn’t clean as thoroughly as you thought. “Cleaning up the interior and exterior by painting, replanting or updating carpet can make a big difference,” says Leslie Piper, a housing specialist with Realtor.com. Another benefit is that you’ll pare down your personal belongings and you’ll “make the home look larger,” she adds.

Also consider keeping your pets out of the house during the selling period. “If the pet smell is apparent, it can be a real turnoff to prospective buyers,” Piper says. She suggests removing them from the home when prospective buyers are wandering through the house, and, if possible, boarding them at the house of a friend or family member.

And pay special attention to the home’s entrance, suggests Jennifer Darby Metzger, a broker with ERA Justin Realty Co., in Rutherford, N.J. “Can you put down some fresh mulch to tidy up the curb appeal?” Metzger asks. “Sometimes just taking out old rugs, giving a fresh coat of paint and beautifying the entrance can help the house sell.”

Consider finding a new real estate agent. If you get the sense that your agent never has time for you or your home has been on the market forever, it may be time to work with someone else.

“It’s imperative that when listing your property to go with a local expert – a broker who is knowledgeable and has a solid marketing plan,” Anzalone says. “Often sellers will go with the broker that discounts their fees the greatest.”

[Read: 5 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Real Estate Agent.]

That’s understandable, since you want to keep as much profit as you can, but real estate agents exist for a reason. The good ones know what they’re doing. The bad ones, Anzalone says, may not have the budget or expertise to market your house effectively.

If you decide to make a switch, be sure to dissolve your contract. You don’t want the agent still working to sell your house while you’re working with someone else.

Fix what needs to be fixed. This is easy to do if there’s a glaring problem with your home, but what if there is something subtle you haven’t noticed?

Liz Lucchesi, an agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc. Realtors, based in Alexandria, Va., says she and her homeowner clients keep a feedback spreadsheet for this sort of problem. If you had a number of potential homebuyers marching through your house and eyeing but not buying, you can start to look for patterns.

“Is there a consistent deficiency noted by each and every buyer who has come in the door?” she asks.

If so, fix the problem, and let everyone know about the changes, Lucchesi advises. “Take pictures of the changed areas that were addressed and post them every and anywhere,” she says. “Facebook, Twitter, the multiple listing service and the [home selling] websites.”

Look at your photos again. That’s right — the photos on the websites where you’re showcasing your house. “These days, most people begin their house hunt on the Internet. First impressions are everything when it comes to homebuying, especially online. The more photos, the better,” says Erin Sartain, marketing and training director for NexTitle, a title and escrow agency based in Bellevue, Wash.

She stresses: “Turn on the lights. Too often we see listing photos that are taken inside and not a single light is turned on.”

If you do that, she says you might as well describe your home as a cozy cave. “All small lamps, overhead lighting, porch light — turn them all on for photos. Not only does it add warmth to a room, but it allows people to see the room they are looking at.”

[See: 12 Ways to Save Money at Home.]

She suggests scrutinizing your photos, too, making sure the toilet seat is down in a bathroom photo, the bed is made in a bedroom picture, clutter is removed from the counters, there are no animals in the photos and cars are removed from the driveway. “You’d be amazed at how often these things are missed,” she says.

Wait, no animals? Who would have anything against Fido? Besides, couldn’t a few animals make you seem more likable to a pet owner buying your home?

Maybe, but you will also scare away other buyers, Sartain says. “It could be an instant turnoff for someone who is allergic. Some people see animals and immediately think, ‘Oh, great, the carpets have been peed on.’ It’s just awkward to have animals in real estate photos,” she says.

And, really, isn’t selling a home awkward enough?

 

Permalink | Email this | Comments

Kitchen Remodeling: 14 Ways to Take Thousands Off the Cost

Filed under: , ,

beautiful kitchen in new luxury ...
ShutterstockThe choice of materials makes a big difference in how much you’ll spend on a kitchen remodel.

By Teresa Mears

We always hear that remodeling a kitchen is one of the most expensive home improvements. And it can be. The Remodeling 2014 Cost vs. Value Report listed the average cost of a major kitchen remodel at $54,909, and even a minor remodel came in at $18,856. But kitchen remodeling doesn’t have to be that expensive.

“If you take it piece by piece, you can do something good on a budget,” says Aimee Grove, a communications and marketing specialist in the San Francisco area. She and her husband have remodeled two kitchens on a budget. “I have my dream kitchen now,” she says. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

The choice of materials makes a big difference in how much you’ll spend. Custom-made, solid-wood cabinets with a premium finish and decorative molding can easily cost $1,200 or more per linear foot, which is the way cabinets are normally priced. But you can get attractive cabinets at Ikea or even a local shop for a quarter of that cost if you shop around. And while granite countertops definitely cost more than laminate, if you visit enough stores, you’ll learn that granite itself varies widely in price. “We went to 10 different marble places until we found the slab we wanted at the right price,” Grove says.

[See: 8 Home Remodeling Projects That Are Worth the Money.]

She and her husband remodeled the kitchen of their cottage-style home for about $12,000 after getting a quote from a contractor for $32,000. They chose to paint rather than replace their existing cabinets, but added a marble countertop and a subway tile backsplash, plus two new stainless steel appliances.

They found that it really pays to shop for materials and labor. For example, the price of the marble they wanted varied from $80 to $13 per square foot, and the fabrication quotes ranged from $3,200 to

“If you have the capabilities to be the general contractor yourself, you can definitely save some money.”

$6,000. Quotes to paint their cabinets ranged from $1,500 to $7,000. Tile, both for flooring and backsplashes, can run $1 to $15 per square foot. You may find the cabinet hardware you liked most in the store for half the price online.

Danielle Colding, who runs Danielle Colding Design in Brooklyn, New York, recently redid her kitchen with sleek, ultramodern gray lacquer cabinets from Ikea. “They’re really affordable,” she says. “You can do a normal kitchen for $4,000 to $5,000.”

Colding, who won HGTV’s “Design Star” competition in 2012 and also hosted “Shop This Room” on the network, says local shops can also be an excellent option when remodeling on a budget. Grove and her husband chose to act as their own contractors, hiring separate painters, marble fabricators and tile installers. They gathered names from a contractor friend and the marble yard, and then asked those companies for bids and references.

Being your own contractor creates more work because you’re screening multiple contractors rather than just one general contractor for the entire project. Plus, you have to be available during the day to supervise, and you have to shop around to find the best price on supplies. But for someone whose remodel doesn’t include knocking down walls, reconfiguring the layout or dealing with city permits, appointing yourself contractor can be a way to cut costs.

“If you have the capabilities to be the general contractor yourself, you can definitely save some money,” says Jason Kloesel, owner of VK Construction and Remodeling in Austin, Texas. “If you don’t have the smallest construction knowledge, I would not recommend this at all.”

[Read: Which Home Remodeling Projects Are Worth Your Money?]

Whether you hire a general contractor or individual companies, make sure the contract is very specific about what is included when it comes to labor and materials. Here are 14 tips for remodeling your kitchen on a budget.

Know what look you want before you start interviewing contractors. Drop by local showrooms to see cabinets, countertop options and combinations. This will help you get a sense of costs for different options, too.

Keep your plumbing and gas lines in the same place. A kitchen remodel costs considerately less when you don’t change the layout.

Keep your plumbing and gas lines in the same place. A kitchen remodel costs considerately less when you don’t change the layout.

Don’t assume big-box stores have the lowest prices. A local cabinetmaker, in some cases, may offer a better deal than the larger competition.

Shop around. Explore all options for both labor and materials, from granite to hardware to appliances. Price varies a lot.

Consider used. Entire kitchens are routinely sold on Craigslist and at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore as well as architectural salvage stores. Hiring a local cabinetmaker to create a piece or two is much cheaper than creating an entire kitchen. “It’s used, obviously, but it’s usually very high-quality,” says Cathie Pliess, design program coordinator for the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.

Look for remnants of granite and marble. Most fabricators have stone left over from previous jobs, and they’ll often sell it for a fraction of the original cost.

Make friends with cabinet shops. Once they’re finished with a display, it is sold at a deep discount. And don’t forget about big-box stores. You can score deals on cabinets by being friendly with them, too.

Shop online. Hardware, plumbing and lighting fixtures are all great items to buy online.

[Read: 10 Do-It-Yourself Home Projects You Can Finish in a Weekend.]

Don’t skimp on planning. The exact layout of the kitchen and choice of cabinets will make a big difference in how well your kitchen functions.

Find out where contractors shop. Many of those stores and fabricators are open to the public. Some offer discounts for bigger purchases, and many sell products that aren’t available in retail stores.

Be flexible on materials. If there is a look you want, see if there is a cheaper way to get it. Subway tile and glass tile, for example, are available at many price points, as are granite, marble and porcelain floor tile.

Do your due diligence. Check references of any contractors you plan to use, and make sure the contracts spell out who is responsible for buying materials, exactly what materials the contractor is supplying (down to brand and model number) and what the cost will be if you make changes during the job. Cheaper is not necessarily better.

Paint when possible. Know that paint is cheaper than stain, and that goes for the labor, too. “People shouldn’t overlook what a difference it makes to paint your cabinets,” Pliess says.

Consider alternative materials and designs. You can take the doors off the top cabinets or repurpose old furniture as kitchen storage or to create an island, Pliess suggests. Beadboard creates an attractive, inexpensive backsplash. And you might be surprised at today’s laminate countertops.

“Laminate has come a really long way,” Pliess says. “It doesn’t have that ugly laminate look anymore.”

 

Permalink | Email this | Comments

5 Questions for Real Estate Agents From Potential Clients

Filed under: , ,

a female real estate agent...
ShutterstockFor buyers’ and sellers’ agents, neighborhood expertise is key, because local markets can have different quirks.

By Susan Johnson

Whether you’re planning to buy or sell property this summer, you may want to work with a real estate agent to guide you through the process. While you may have a neighbor or cousin who works in real estate, it’s a good idea to vet potential agents to ensure the best fit for your needs, since it’s hardly a one-size-fits-all proposition. Here’s a look at questions to ask.

1. How long have you been in the business? First, ask about the agent’s experience. “For me, the first thing I want to know is how long have they been in the marketplace,” says Rick Harris, regional vice president for the National Association of Realtors and owner of a Coldwell Bankers office in Ashland, Oregon. “Not just how many years, but how many buyers do they work with that have similar needs.”
Also consider the difference between a part-time real estate agent who sells a few properties for friends and relatives and someone who treats it as a full-time business venture. As Mirtha Barzaga, a Realtor with Davidson Realty in St. Augustine, Florida, points out, “there [are] a lot of agents out there that do this

“If they’re branding themselves as a condo specialist and you want to buy a house, they’re probably not the right agent for you.”

part time, and they can’t provide the level of service that somebody who is doing this day in and day out can provide.”

2. What geographic areas and types of properties do you handle? For buyers’ and sellers’ agents, neighborhood expertise is key, because neighborhood markets can have different quirks. For instance, Harris lives on a small ranch, so he knows the ins and outs of rural properties. “I focus very specifically on my county because rural regulations differ by county,” he adds. Historic homes are another area that may require special expertise because of the additional challenges and potential restrictions involved.
Consider not only what agents tell you but also the way they brand themselves online. Herman Chan, a real estate broker with Sotheby’s International Realty in San Francisco, says many agents are now active on social media with YouTube channels, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages and more, allowing you to do your own research.

“If they’re branding themselves as a condo specialist and you want to buy a house, they’re probably not the right agent for you,” he says. An agent who focuses on condominiums may have more familiarity with specific condo buildings than someone who mainly handles single-family homes.

Ask about other types of expertise, too. If you’re a veteran or active duty military member, you may want to work with someone who has special training to understand how Veterans Affairs financing works and the challenges of frequently relocating. If you’re a first-time buyer, you may want to find someone who works with lots of first-time buyers and has the patience to do some hand-holding.

3. How will you communicate with me? A communication lapse of a few hours can mean the difference between an accepted offer and a missed opportunity. With that in mind, choose an agent who responds quickly in the mode of communication that works for you, whether it’s email, text, phone or fax. “Quite frankly as Realtors, our job is to be able to communicate the way the consumer wants,” Harris says. “Finding a Realtor who will work with you in the way that you need to work is great.”

Communication is especially important for buyers house-hunting from afar. Chan has clients in London or Asia who communicate with him via Gchat or FaceTime. He’ll also record tours of potential properties and upload the videos to YouTube with a private link.

Also ask who will be your main point of contact, because some busy real estate agents use a team of assistants or sub-agents to handle day-to-day tasks, and you may not have direct access to the agent you choose. “Maybe some people don’t care, but I think that’s an important question to ask,” Chan says.

4. Can you share references? In addition to interviewing potential agents, talk to their buyers or sellers. Barzaga says she has a list of clients she can share with potential clients as needed. “I have had some of my previous clients take them out to lunch and talk to them without me being in front of them so they can get a real picture of that area and the work that I have done for them,” she says. Harris agrees that talking to past clients is a good idea. “By doing that, you take out the self-promotion that everybody in business has to do and get to that relationship to help you understand how well they actually did,” he says.

Also ask what portion of business comes from referrals or repeat business. If an agent mainly works on referrals or repeat business, that can be a positive indicator that prior clients were satisfied.

5. What will it cost me to sell this property? Buyers often don’t pay commission directly, but sellers often do and the costs can vary from agent to agent. For buyers who worry that bringing up the commission topic will be uncomfortable, Chan suggests phrasing this question as, “What will it cost me to sell this property?” Also ask for a breakdown of estimated closing costs. “If they feel that it’s appropriate in your market, some agents throw in free staging or pay for your moving expenses, but you have to compare apples to apples,” he says. “If you get someone who’s charging less, are you getting reduced services for reduced commission?”

Barzaga suggests asking where the property will be listed and how many websites the agent participates in. Will the agent list the property on his or her YouTube channel or Facebook page too? And if so, how many followers does he or she have?

These questions can help you get a sense of the agent’s process and personality, but the right decision may depend on your instinctive reaction. “Follow your intuition,” Chan says. “If they feel too slick, it’s not a good sign. It’s a good sign when you find an agent who can tell it like it is.”

 

Permalink | Email this | Comments